Friday, 17 May 2013

Kim's Review : Kitchen Venom

When I came to know that Philip Hensher would be at JLF 2013, I started looking into his books. Kitchen Venom was touted as the Winner of a Somerset Maugham Award 1997. A stunning novel of political life, betrayal and passion, which lifts the lid on vice within the Palace of Westminster…and cost Hensher his job as a House of Commons clerk

So I was most certainly hoping for some juicy British political gossip. However, since all names are masked, it would only make sense to someone well informed of Margaret Thatchers government and its constituents.

The story revolves around a hunchbacked Westminster clerk John, his 2 daughters and the people he interacts with and his proclivity for rent boys.

I found the book extremely slow and melancholic. It took me quite some time to get used to Hensher's style of writing which includes so many double and triple negatives, that the reader often has to read the same sentence at least twice to decipher the intent of that statement. For eg : "Had he been unhappy? Or was it simply that, now that his life was more full, he was aware, retrospectively, that his before-life was not upto much? What Henry thought, he could not say to Francesca. He thought that perhaps he could not have been unhappy and not known it. Because unhappiness depends on one knowing it. And if he, had been unhappy without knowing it, there was no reason that he might not be unhappy now, without knowing it"

The book is almost lethargic in its pace and hardly moves forward. Each character is caught up in their own ennui and resistance to change of any kind. I could not identify or sympathise with the characters of either Jane or Francesca. Their presence was practically like an unremarkable picture on the wall. Occasionally commented upon, but making no difference to the lives of people they touched, if they made the effort to touch any people at all.

Seeveral times while reading this book, I questioned myself as to why I continued to read the book, even though it was a difficult read that didn't' seem to be headed anywhere, but something in the book, made me keep reading or maybe these are just the starting signs of OCD. (not being able to put down a half read book)

This is not a book I would recommend unless the topic of British Politics is of specific interest to you

Rating : 2.5 / 5

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